June 18, 2015

Activating a student

I came across a beautiful example of activating a student in a progress-focused manner. 

Tina teaches high school students in a special boarding school. During the brief period (usually several months) in which these students are at the boarding school they work independently on their subjects most of the time and whenever they need some help or explanation Tina and their colleagues provide it to them. Of course, every now and then the students also have to take tests. Tina frequently uses progress-focused principles and techniques such as growth mindset interventions and autonomy supportive interventions. Every day, she writes brief observation/reflection diary entries, both for her own purpose and to inform her colleagues about what happened on that day. I have read and remembered one of the recent entries in that diary. I went something like this.
Yesterday, I saw that Laura did not work most of the time during class. Most of the time, she just sat there and stared. After class was over I walked up to her. First I said to her that I had the impression that, during this lesson, she hadn't yet been able to get to work in a pleasurable way and I asked her if that was true. She said it was true. I asked her whether she was satisfied about how she had spent the time to which she replied that she wasn't. Then I asked her if she had any ideas about how it might be better next time so that she would be more satisfied. She thought about that for a bit and said she no ideas. Then I asked her: "Might it be a good idea if we'd make a planning together to help you get started?" (She found that a good idea. We spend 5 to 10 minutes making that planing. I have mainly asked questions because I wanted that it would be her who would make the planning as much as possible. Those were questions like: Do you already know what you need to do? How much time do you need for that? What would you like to start with? How would like to work at this?) Today, I was curious how Laura would spend her time. She worked hard all the time. Afterwards, I walked by her and asked her: "I believe that it went well today, right?" She smiled and said that she was satisfied, indeed. 
I like Tina's approach in several ways. What has worked well, I think, is the tentative tone in which she shared her observations with Laura. By avoiding a strict and judgmental tone of voice, she did not evoke any resistance in Laura. Then, she was able to activate Laura by asking questions about how satisfied she was and what her own ideas were about how it might become better.  She then suggested to make a planning in an inviting manner. While making the planning she activated Laura so that she would feel it was her own planning. I can imagine that this worked pleasantly and well.

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